The June 2007 Bush Telegraph from the PCANZ has a couple of items about CASI and its future. Firstly this from AES, the Rev Martin Baker:
The Churches Agency on Social Issues (CASI)
The Methodist Church and the Associated Church of Christ have joined with the Presbyterian Church in the decision to bring the work of CASI to an end on the 31 December 2007. CASI’s Research and Liaison Officer, Paul Thompson will conclude his work with CASI when his contract is completed, which is also at the end of this year. The Presbyterian Church will continue its support of the Inter-church Bio Ethics Council and will make arrangements with CASI to ensure that the resources on their website remain available. Later this year we will also look to create some occasion to give thanks for the work of CASI and its predecessor – the Joint Public Questions Committee.
In the meantime we have established a brief for our first social issues engagement publication which we have now commissioned and will be distributed to parishes (and other groups including politicians) in September after being edited and endorsed by a small editorial committee. While no publication can claim to represent the singular view of the Presbyterian Church these resources will provide a good analysis, a strong commitment to sound biblical and theological reflection and be intended to engage both church members and those seeking to explore what a Christian view-point might be on a particular issue. The Moderator will be working with us as we seek opportunities for wider social engagement on the topics we address in these publications. If you think there are particular issues of wide topical interest that we could address in this way please let me know so that we can prioritise our work on these resources over the coming time.
I am also aware that there are ‘public questions’ justice and peace groups operating from individual congregations and within presbyteries around New Zealand. I know for instance of one group who is working to challenge the growth of a casino in their community. There may be opportunities for us to publicise the areas and issues of concern which you are working on. Again, please let me know if you are involved in this kind of work and witness.
No mention of Quakers here, probably because they don’t agree with the decision.
Also worthy of comment is the phrase “particular issues of wide topical interest”. Why should issues of wide topical interest be of special concern to the church. Such a focus risks basing ministry in this area on what appears on the 6 o’clock news or front pages of newspaper, in other words our agenda is being set for us by the corporate media, and not our experience with those suffering silently and who have no voice.
I look forward to the new publication, but it is not our “first social issues engagement publication”, there have been others. Most recently Broadsheet. It is interesting to note that Christian social ministry here is being dominated by a web and print publishing approach. There are many other things that could be done, such as workshops, podcasts, speaking tours, preaching and so on.
Generally speaking it seems to be business as usual, but with the work being spread around over several people instead of being done by one. This could have some positive benefits, if each and every part of the Church (youth, for example) considered how it might contribute to social justice and peace. I predict, however, that after the initial flourish of activity the work previously done by CASI will die away in 2008 and become an issue at the PCANZ General Assembly later that year. There should some questions asked about why the decision that PCANZ should pull out was not referred to the Assembly and could be made by the Council of Assembly without Church-wide consultation.
In the meantime CASI continues on with a range of activities.